The Los Angeles Lakers may rule the Western Conference, but the Denver Nuggets aren't too far behind.
With Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., Denver has the pieces to compete for a title this upcoming season and expectations are high for their newest venture.
But according to head coach Mike Malone, the team isn't anywhere close to where they need to be. In a chat with the media, he spoke candidly about where he thinks the team stands on the cusp of opening night:
“It’s everything,” Malone said when asked what the Nuggets need to work on and improve heading to the 2021-22 season. “We’re just not a very good team right now. No organization, too many blown sets, too many blown coverages, lack of communication, too many turnovers, sloppy, throwing the ball all over the place, starters got beat today because they had 15 turnovers and the other team only had five.”
Right when the Nuggets were hitting their stride, star guard Jamal Murray went down with a knee injury, sidelining him for the season and neutralizing his team's title hopes.
Still, no matter what Malone says, his team is in a better spot than most. With Murray healthy, and the Nuggets ready to run it back, they're in a good position to make a lot of noise. Nikola Jokic, the reigning MVP, believes they are a Championship squad.
“Yes, of course,” he said when asked if he feels his club should be in the NBA title conversation, even without Murray. “If everybody buys in and everybody plays the right way, there is a chance, of course.
Do we have enough talent? I don’t know," Jokic said. "Are we the best team in the NBA? I don’t know, so we will see. The season is going to show us everything.”
Indeed, this next chapter will be a major test for these Nuggets, and also a major opportunity.
Will Murray explode as the All-Star he's shown he can be? Can Jokic continue to carry his team through the competitive Western Conference? Can the Nuggets finally get over the hump and bring home a title?
Much remains to be seen, but it's clear that the path ahead will not be an easy one.